Insights Daily Current Affairs + PIB: 02 November 2019
Table of contents:
GS Paper 2:
- Electoral Bond Scheme.
GS Paper 3:
- CMIE report on Joblessness.
- Polavaram project.
- Public health emergency declared in Delhi.
- Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act.
GS Paper 4:
- WhatsApp hacking and issues related.
Facts for prelims:
- Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO).
GS Paper 2:
- Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.
What to study?
For Prelims: Key features of Electoral Bonds and highlights of the scheme.
For Mains: Significance of the scheme, benefits and concerns associated.
Context: Electoral bonds worth ₹232 crore were sold in October, taking the total number of bonds sold from March 2018 till October 2019 to 12,313 and the total value to ₹6,128 crore, according to data shared by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR)
Mumbai had the highest amount of bonds at ₹1,880 crore, followed by Kolkata at ₹1,440 crore, Delhi at ₹919 crore and Hyderabad at ₹838 crore, while all other cities accounted for ₹1,051 crore from March 2018 till October 2019.
About Electoral bonds:
What are electoral bonds? Bonds that allow donors to pay political parties using banks as an intermediary.
- Although called a bond, the banking instrument resembling promissory notes will not carry any interest.
- It will be a bearer instrument.
- It will not carry the name of the payee.
- It can be bought for any value, in multiples of Rs 1,000, Rs 10,000, Rs 1 lakh, Rs 10 lakh or Rs 1 crore.
- May be purchased by a citizen of India, or entities incorporated or established in India.
- A person being an individual can buy electoral bonds, either singly or jointly with other individuals.
- Only the registered Political Parties which have secured not less than one per cent of the votes polled in the last Lok Sabha elections or the State Legislative Assembly are eligible to receive the Electoral Bonds.
The electoral bonds are aimed at rooting out the current system of largely anonymous cash donations made to political parties which lead to the generation of black money in the economy.
How will the Bonds help?
- Encourage political donations of clean money from individuals, companies, HUF, religious groups, charities, etc.
- After purchasing the bonds, these entities can hand them to political parties of their choice, which must redeem them within the prescribed time.
Why is there a controversy?
- The introduction of the electoral bond scheme is part of what appears to be a growing trend away from transparency and accountability, two values which were already sparse in relation to Indian political parties.
- Opponents to the scheme allege that since the identity of the donor of electoral bonds has been kept anonymous, it could lead to an influx of black money.
- Others allege that the scheme was designed to help big corporate houses donate money without their identity being revealed.
GS Paper 3:
- Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.
What to study?
For Prelims: Key findings of the report.
For Mains: Concerns, reasons for rise in unemployment, challenges ahead and ways to address them.
Context: The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) has released a report on Unemployment in India.
- India’s unemployment rate in October rose to 8.5%, the highest level since August 2016.
- Urban unemployment rate at 8.9%, is more than the rural unemployment rate of 8.3%.
- Highest unemployment rate in Tripura and Haryana, at more than 20%.
- Lowest in Tamil Nadu at 1.1%.
- Rajasthan saw its unemployment rate double between September and October 2019.
Why this is a cause for concern?
- CMIE findings are in line with the findings of the latest Periodic Labour Force Survey, which had estimated an unemployment rate of 6.1% between July 2017 and June 2018, the worst in 45 years.
- The data also comes on the back of other indicators showing a downturn in the economy, including the core sector output in September posting its worst contraction in at least 14 years.
- Earlier, August’s industrial output shrank at its fastest rate in more than six years.
- Another research estimates that between 2011-12 and 2017-18, employment declined by an unprecedented nine million jobs (a 2% drop), with agricultural employment declining by 11.5%. In the same period, employment in the service sector increased by 13.4%, while manufacturing employment dipped by 5.7%.
- While employment has been declining, the number of working age people who are “Not in Labour Force, Education and Training” has continued to increase — from about 84 million in 2011-12, it has now crossed 100 million.
What causes this?
Most of the decline in employment has happened due to the fall in the number of workers in agriculture and a sharp fall in the absolute number of female workers- Roughly 37 million workers left agriculture in the last six years. During the same time, 25 million women workers were out of the workforce.
While the trend of workers moving out of agriculture is seen since 2004-05 and is welcome, it also points to the rising vulnerability of farm production.
No doubt, the problem is not new and even earlier governments are to be blamed for the mess that the economy is in. Unfortunately, blaming the data or earlier governments does not make people who are looking for jobs vanish from the country. Stagnant wages and jobless growth are not just indicators of a weakening economy, but also a recipe for political instability and a crisis in the countryside. The least that is expected of the government is an acknowledgement of the extent of the problem and then try to address it.
Need of the hour:
Falling manufacturing employment and decelerating construction employment growth are bad news for the economy.
To sustain the growth of income, improve standard of living, and to reduce poverty, employment opportunities in manufacturing and construction (although a transitory sector) is necessary.
Sources: the Hindu.
- Major crops cropping patterns in various parts of the country, different types of irrigation and irrigation systems storage, transport and marketing of agricultural produce and issues and related constraints; e-technology in the aid of farmers.
What to study?
For Prelims: Key facts on Polavaram project.
For Mains: Significance and issues associated with the project.
Context: Work on the mega Polavaram irrigation project was recently resumed by the new contractor, Hyderabad-based Megha Engineering and Infrastructure Ltd.
About the Polavaram project:
It is a multi-purpose irrigation project.
- The dam across the Godavari River is under construction located in West Godavari District and East Godavari District in Andhra Pradesh state and its reservoir spreads in parts of Chhattisgarh and Orissa States also.
- The project is multipurpose major terminal reservoir project on river Godavari for development of Irrigation, Hydropower and drinking water facilities to East Godavari, Vishakhapatnam, West Godavari and Krishna districts of Andhra Pradesh.
- The Polavaram project was accorded national status in 2014 in the Andhra Pradesh Bifurcation Act and its design was changed.
- Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment
What to study?
For Prelims: GRAP and key features.
For Mains: Concerns over rising pollution levels, challenges and ways to address them, need for a permanent solution.
Context: EPCA declares public health emergency in Delhi-NCR.
AQI entered the “severe plus” or “emergency” category.
Background– Pollution levels and indicators:
An AQI between 0-50 is considered ‘good’, 51-100 ‘satisfactory’, 101-200 ‘moderate’, 201-300 ‘poor’, 301-400 ‘very poor’ and 401-500 ‘severe’. Above 500 falls in the ‘severe-plus emergency’ category.
Measures announced under GRAP- Severe+ or Emergency- (PM 2.5 over 300 µg/cubic metre or PM10 over 500 µg/cu. m. for 48+ hours):
- Stop entry of trucks into Delhi (except essential commodities).
- Stop construction work.
- Introduce odd/even scheme for private vehicles and minimise exemptions.
- Task Force to decide any additional steps including shutting of schools.
Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP):
- Approved by the Supreme Court in 2016.
- It works only as an emergency measure.
- As such, the plan does not include action by various state governments to be taken throughout the year to tackle industrial, vehicular and combustion emissions.
- When the air quality shifts from poor to very poor, the measures listed have to be followed since the plan is incremental in nature.
Has it been helpful?
- It has created a step-by-step plan for the entire Delhi-NCR region and getting on board several agencies including pollution control boards, industrial area authorities, municipal corporations, regional officials of the India Meteorological Department, and others.
- It has been successful in fixing accountability and deadlines. For each action to be taken under a particular air quality category, executing agencies are clearly marked.
- Coordination among as many as 13 agencies from four states is simplified to a degree because of the clear demarcation of responsibilities.
- Three major policy decisions that can be credited to EPCA and GRAP are the closure of the thermal power plant at Badarpur, bringing BS-VI fuel to Delhi before the deadline set initially, and the ban on Pet coke as a fuel in Delhi NCR.
- Strict enforcement of lower pollution norms: Trucks and buses mixing kerosene and diesel should be impounded, and fined.
- Buses from other states should be allowed to enter Delhi only if they meet certain pollution norms.
- Constant monitoring of garbage dumps such as those in Bhalswa and New Ashok Nagar and any fire incidents at these places need to proactively put out.
- Complete ban on burning of leaves in Delhi through the year.
- All construction activity in Delhi should be done with draping, to ensure that dust and dirt doesn’t fly into the air. This is done everywhere else in the world.
- Dust soppers can be run through Delhi roads regularly, every morning.
- To prevent burning of wood etc during peak winters, build shelters for the homeless to sleep at night in the winters. Some of this has been done by the govt. More needs to be done.
- Move Brick kilns out of Delhi within 3 years. This was done with tanneries almost 20 yrs ago.
Sources: the Hindu.
1.Security challenges and their management in border areas.
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: AFSPA- features, draconian provisions, misuses and need for review.
Context: The Cabinet Secretariat has notified rules reasserting the Union Home Ministry as the authority that would decide on the imposition of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) in the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
What does the AFSPA mean?
- In simple terms, AFSPA gives armed forces the power to maintain public order in “disturbed areas”.
- They have the authority to prohibit a gathering of five or more persons in an area, can use force or even open fire after giving due warning if they feel a person is in contravention of the law.
- If reasonable suspicion exists, the army can also arrest a person without a warrant; enter or search premises without a warrant; and ban the possession of firearms.
What is a “disturbed area” and who has the power to declare it?
- A disturbed area is one which is declared by notification under Section 3 of the AFSPA. An area can be disturbed due to differences or disputes between members of different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities.
- The Central Government, or the Governor of the State or administrator of the Union Territory can declare the whole or part of the State or Union Territory as a disturbed area. A suitable notification would have to be made in the Official Gazette. As per Section 3, it can be invoked in places where “the use of armed forces in aid of the civil power is necessary”.
What’s the origin of AFSPA?
The Act came into force in the context of increasing violence in the Northeastern States decades ago, which the State governments found difficult to control. The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Bill was passed by both the Houses of Parliament and it was approved by the President on September 11, 1958. It became known as the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958.
What are the special powers given to army officials?
- Under Section 4 of the AFSPA, an authorised officer in a disturbed area enjoys certain powers. The authorised officer has the power to open fire at any individual even if it results in death if the individual violates laws which prohibit (a) the assembly of five or more persons; or (b) carrying of weapons. However, the officer has to give a warning before opening fire.
- The authorised officer has also been given the power to (a) arrest without a warrant; and (b) seize and search without any warrant any premise in order to make an arrest or recovery of hostages, arms and ammunitions.
- Individuals who have been taken into custody have to be handed over to the nearest police station as soon as possible.
- Prosecution of an authorised officer requires prior permission of the Central government.
What has been the role of the judiciary?
There were questions about the constitutionality of AFSPA, given that law and order is a state subject. The Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of AFSPA in a 1998 judgement (Naga People’s Movement of Human Rights v. Union of India).
In this judgement, the Supreme Court arrived at certain conclusions including:
(a) a suo-motto declaration can be made by the Central government, however, it is desirable that the state government should be consulted by the central government before making the declaration;
(b) AFSPA does not confer arbitrary powers to declare an area as a ‘disturbed area’;
(c) the declaration has to be for a limited duration and there should be a periodic review of the declaration 6 months have expired;
(d) while exercising the powers conferred upon him by AFSPA, the authorised officer should use minimal force necessary for effective action,
(e) the authorised officer should strictly follow the ‘Dos and Don’ts’ issued by the army.
Has there been any review of the Act?
On November 19, 2004, the Central government appointed committee headed by Justice B P Jeevan Reddy made the following recommendations: (a) AFSPA should be repealed and appropriate provisions should be inserted in the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967; (b) The Unlawful Activities Act should be modified to clearly specify the powers of the armed forces and paramilitary forces and (c) grievance cells should be set up in each district where the armed forces are deployed.
The 5th report of the Second Administrative Reforms Commission on public order has also recommended the repeal of the AFSPA.
These recommendations have not been implemented.
Sources: the Hindu.
GS Paper 4:
Context: WhatsApp has been used to spy on journalists and human rights activists in India earlier this year. The surveillance was carried out using a spyware tool called Pegasus, which has been developed by an Israeli firm, the NSO Group.
- The surveillance was carried out “between in and around April 2019 and May 2019” on users in 20 countries across four continents.
- In response, WhatsApp has sued the NSO Groupin a federal court, accusing it of using WhatsApp servers in the United States and elsewhere “to send malware to approximately 1,400 mobile phones and devices (‘Target Devices’) for the purpose of conducting surveillance of specific WhatsApp users (‘Target Users’)”.
- Tools that enable surveillance into our private lives are being abused, and the proliferation of this technology into the hands of irresponsible companies and governments puts us all at risk.
- WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, is the world’s most popular messaging app, with more than 1.5 billion users worldwide. About a quarter of those users — more than 400 million, or 40 crore — are in India, WhatsApp’s biggest market.
So what exactly is Pegasus? How it works?
- It is a spyware that works by sending an exploit link, and if the target user clicks on the link, the malware or the code that allows the surveillance is installed on the user’s phone.
- Pegasus is installed without the user’s knowledge or permission.
- Once Pegasus is installed, the attacker has complete access to the target user’s phone.
- Pegasus delivers a chain of zero-day exploits to penetrate security features on the phone and installs Pegasus without the user’s knowledge or permission.
- A “zero-day exploit” is a completely unknown vulnerability, about which even the software manufacturer is not aware, and there is, thus, no patch or fix available for it.
The Pegasus method:
To monitor a target, a Pegasus operator must convince a target to click on a specially crafted ‘exploit link’ which allows the operator to penetrate security features on the phone and installs Pegasus without the user’s knowledge or permission. Once the phone is exploited and Pegasus installed, it begins contacting the operator’s command and control servers to receive and execute operator commands, and send back the target’s private data, including passwords, contact lists, calendar events, text messages, and live voice calls from popular mobile messaging apps. The operator can even turn on the phone’s camera and microphone to capture activity in the phone’s vicinity.
- The government has pulled up WhatsApp for not disclosing to Indian authorities the details of the spyware attack launched on Indian citizens through the Israeli software Pegasus, despite at least a couple of high-level meetings between the two sides in the past few months.
- However, WhatsApp appeared to counter the Indian government, saying it had in May “quickly resolved a security issue and notified Indian and international government authorities.”
- However, the government points out that though the WhatsApp informed CERT-In, or the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team, it failed to communicate the fact that Indian citizens had been affected by it.
- WhatsApp was legally bound under Section 70(B) of the IT Act, 2000 to inform the government about the details of such attacks (on Indian citizens), which they failed to.
Sources: the Hindu.
Facts for prelims:
Institutions in News- Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO):
- SFIO comes under the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA).
- It is a multi-disciplinary organisation that investigates and guides prosecution in white-collar fraud requiring expertise in forensic auditing, corporate law, information technology, capital markets, taxation, and other allied fields.
- It was established in 2003, based on recommendations by the Naresh Chandra Committee on Corporate Audit and Governance.
- It received statutory powers under the Companies Act, 2013.
- Cases are assigned to the SFIO based on the scale of financial misappropriation or extent of public interest that is at stake.